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Let OS X developers at the iPhone. Please.

Sixfoot6 Archives: 30 Things the iPhone Could Do That You Haven't Thought of Yet

Ryan's list contains a lot of the tear-inducingly sexy fantasies that were going through my own mind on Tuesday morning when we all heard that the iPhone was going to run OS X.

Like a lot of my friends, I (probably naively) took the announcement to mean that, as on my own Mac, I'd be able to install Cocoa applications built to take advantage of announced features like WebKit, Core Animation, and so on. Sure, given the foreseeable hardware limitations, these wouldn't be the exact applications that we're each running on our MacBooks today, but, hell, I'd take "OmniOutliner Mobile" or "iTerm Lite" or "Textmate for iPhone" in a heartbeat. No question.

Yesterday morning, though, I started to hear rumbles about the "inability for users to install additional applications of their choosing." And then later, after Brian from Gizmodo got a hands-on demo along with a sit-down with official Apple honchos, he noted...

It isn't OS X proper, as you'd expect. And like an iPod, it won't be an open system that people can develop for. Remember, this is both an iPod and a Phone.

...and I died a little inside.

Yes, there's still months for this to change, and yes, this is a 1.0, and yes, one reason the iPod became the iPod is because Cupertino retained 100% quality control (up to the point of individual musical taste). So I would completely understand why user-installable applications are off the table. Or how, as my friends have speculated, third-party functionality might be handled in a tightly controlled and for-pay way (ala iPod Games).

Yes I'd understand, but I'd feel like Apple was abandoning an opportunity to make this more than a phone, and more that an iPod, and even -- let's be frank about the elephant in the room -- much more than a Palm or a Pocket PC. There's the potential here for some serious George Jetson shit and it would be a pity not to capitalize on that as early as possible.

I hope our friends at Apple will clarify what we can expect this phone to do for us as Mac users and share that information with developers as soon as possible. To be more honest I guess I wish some C-level would pop in to say "Oh, silly. It's OS X: of course you can just drop mobile versions of your applications onto iTunes and they're installed for you!" But, regrettably for now, I think that ain't gonna happen. And it's a bummer.

This week there are a lot of excellent software companies wandering around the floor at Macworld scratching their heads and muttering to themselves about the under-development products that could really benefit from having OS X mobile functionality. They're anxious and thrilled to start doing what indie developers have always done for Apple -- provide the software that answers questions, solves problems, and gives us the personalized affordances to love using Apple hardware all the more.

When it hits stores this summer, the iPhone will be reaching thousands of people who "hate macs." And, as with the iPod, that's obviously the idea (note that this is not a "Mac Phone"). If our beloved OS X developers can introduce people on the other side to the richness and variety of the OS X Mac experience via this lovely phone, you can expect to make an extraordinary number of those former haters into new evangelists for the former "Apple Computer, Inc."

[ Ryan's page via mathowie ]

jhn's picture

There really had better be...

There really had better be some way to get 3rd party apps onto something I'm going to pay out the yazoo for.

Some cool uses for the iPhone ( (R) Cisco Systems) that I would like but I wouldn't expect the masses to:

  • Flash cards
  • Speed-reading applications
  • Creating and editing ASCII/Markdown files
  • Reading Project Gutenberg etexts

And some mainstream-ish stuff that I didn't see get mentioned:

  • IM
  • RSS readers
  • Post picture to Flickr/Picasa

My only beef with the hardware is that it includes yet another phone with no flash. Is a tiny LED so expensive or such a design travesty? Then, you could also use it as a flashlight. I see people all the time using cell phone screens as pathetic little flashlights.




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